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Published: Monday, 5/3/2004

Rocket loyalty to the MAC is misguided

I don't know how hard the University of Toledo's movers and shakers pushed for Conference USA.

All I know is, they didn't push hard enough.

Know this: The odds were stacked against Toledo leaving the Mid-American Conference.

Too much old money and too many pat answers about what's best for UT and what's best for the community.

It's a new day, people.

Just because Toledo has been with the MAC since 1950, doesn't mean the MAC is still the best option.

The MAC could be going the way of the leisure suit on the singles' circuit.

In fact, the MAC as we know it may not even exist in the future.

There are at least five MAC schools currently below the NCAA-

mandated 15,000 attendance figure for football. Those schools will not be eligible for Division I-A status when the NCAA decides to enforce the rule.

There's absolutely no way the MAC could survive under those circumstances.

So while it's great that MAC football has never been better, Toledo, one of the MAC's crown jewels, deserves better.

The MAC needs Toledo, probably more than Toledo needs the MAC.

This isn't just me talking. There are people much closer to the situation who feel the same way.

But for whatever reason, they're not willing to express those opinions publicly.

While attending last week's speech by NCAA president Myles Brand, a member of UT's silent minority sidled up and in his best confidential “you didn't hear this from me” tone, praised a recent column I wrote about the benefits of UT joining Conference USA.

Imagine my surprise when he insisted there was legitimate interest in high places in UT making such a bold move.

In the next sentence, however, I was told UT couldn't leave the MAC because of financial instability on campus, plus a general lack of acceptance from the surrounding community.

UT was among several schools to present proposals to Conference USA. But without the full-blown public support of the entire Toledo community, what chance did UT really have?

Last Friday Texas-El Paso accepted an official invitation to join Conference USA in 2005.

Upgrading to Conference USA would have put Toledo in a position of strength in basketball, increasing the possibility of the Rockets qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

The fact that the lone MAC team to reach the NCAA tournament in each of the last five years needed to win the conference tournament championship game renders the regular season to near-irrelevant status.

Football-wise, UT would also benefit from a switch to Conference USA. The Rockets would have access to bowl games with higher payouts than are currently available to MAC schools.

Aren't you tired of MAC schools in general, and UT in particular, being relegated to second-class status in the postseason?

If not, you should be.



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